Saturday, December 19, 2009

Impact Factor

The blog Mathlog comments in German on a publication in SIAM News by Douglas N. Arnold Integrity Under Attack: The State of Scholarly Publishing.

The publication stems from a report on a particularly disturbing plagiarism series involving 5 plagiarisms by the same duo, M. Sreenivas and T. Srinivas. It seems that the first author was a student of the second one and used the professor's name on the paper without his knowledge. However, Srinivas had the papers listed on his publication list at the department.

The publication goes on to list a number of cases, many of which have been discussed here. A new one is the impact factor of the International Journal of Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation (IJNSNS). I quote a paragraph here from Arnold's paper:
Let me describe another element that contributes to IJNSNS's high impact factor. The Institute of Physics (IOP) publishes Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS). Conference organizers pay to
have proceedings of their conferences published in JPCS, and, in the words of IOP, “JPCS asks Conference Organisers to handle the peer review of all papers.” Neither the brochure nor the website
for JPCS lists an editorial board, nor does either describe any process for judging the quality of the conferences. Nonetheless, Thomson Reuters counts citations from JPCS in calculating impact factors.
One of the 49 volumes of JPCS in 2008 was the proceedings of a conference organized by IJNSNS editor-in-chief He at his home campus, Shanghai Donghua University. This one volume contained 221 papers, with 366 references to papers in IJNSNS and 353 references to He. To give you an idea of the effect of this, had IJNSNS not received a single citation in 2008 beyond the ones in this conference proceedings, it would still have been assigned a larger impact factor than any SIAM journal except for SIAM Review.
Hmm - I have a number of Chinese conferences on my dodgy list. Perhaps Chinese conferences should be excluded from the calculation of impact factors? And journals need to institute some real peer review (and not just payment for publication). It also shows that the impact factor is broken, if it can be easily gamed like this. Arnold summarizes his criticism of reliance on bibliometrics: "Counting can never replace expert opinion."

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